Clunderwen

Clunderwen, or an older spelling ‘Clynderwen’, is derived from the name of a nearby mansion. The name dates back to the early 17th century at least. ‘Clun’ means a meadow or clearing and ‘derwen’ means oak, and nearly 350 years later there are still oaks in the vicinity. Clynderwen Estate was purchased by Abel Gower Esq. in 1825 and the house was re-built in the sixties. It was the influence of the Gower family which led to the name of their house being applied to the station and village in 1875.

Prehistory

One of the post-war housing developments, Heol y Gaer, draws attention to an interesting earthwork nearby. It is an oblong enclosure with strongly rounded corners, about 440 feet in length and 350 feet wide. A recent survey by Dyfed Archaeological Trust notes that the material for the banks has come from the interior which is lowered and levelled. It may belong to the class of monuments known as ‘henges’ and it possibly dates from the Neolithic or Bronze Age.

Parishes and Boundaries

Clynderwen House and part of the village, lie in the ancient parish of Llandissilio. The village also extends into the ancient chapelry of Castell Dwyran in the parish of Cilymaenllwyd and into the hamlet of Grondre, in Castell Dwyran.

Clunderwen Village

The village developed where road and railway cross. Today’s A478 follows an old route from Cardigan, via the long ford of Afon Daulan to Narberth and Tenby. During the late 18th century it became the responsibility of the Whitland Turnpike Trust. There were a number of inns along the road: there is mention of the Boar’s Head, Grondre (c.1831), Weary Team, Grondre (1841), the Wheaten Sheaf, Llandissilio East (1841 and 1861), the Farmers Arms, Llandissilio East (1851) and the Square and Compass, Castell Dwyran (from 1841 into the 20th century). Further inns are noticed, after the coming of the railway: the Iron Duke in Llandissilio East (1861), the Masons Arms (1871) and the Narberth Arms, Castell Dwyran (1871).

A few centuries ago Ty-hen was the home of a gentry family and Grondre continued to be a mansion of some prestige. There were also people who tried to develop industrial interests: in about 1812 there was an iron forge near the present village; sometime before 1843 there was prospecting for copper and a little later for coal; and quarrying for house building stone also took place.

The Railway Village

The name ‘Railway House’ (occupied by a farm labourer) is the only sign in 1851 of the changing nature of the area. At that time, except for an inn, there were no houses in what is now the centre of Clunderwen. However, by 1861 a village known as Narberth Road had grown up around the station.

There were three South Wales Railway houses, later called Railway Terrace, and amongst the residents were a stationmaster, a railway policeman and two porters, and a builder employing 6 masons 2 carpenters and 2 labourers. The fledgling village had a medical hall, but no other shops, two public houses and a railway hotel kept by a mason. Regular coaches from Cardigan collected passengers at Cilgerran, Boncath and Blaenffos, Crymych and Pentregalar and likewise from Narberth. This pattern continued until there was a rail link between Cardigan and Whitland. Mail was dispatched from a wide area via Clunderwen which had its own sorting office.

By 1891 there was a wide range of crafts people: clogmakers, a shoemaker, carpenters, joiners, masons, coopers, blacksmiths, a woollen weaver, dressmakers and tailors, milliners, a saddler, a grocer, a baker, two apprentice chemists, a butter merchant, a coal and lime merchant and a postmistress; also an auctioneer, an assurance agent, a bank cashier and an assistant excise officer. Certain cultural activities like the Semi-National Eisteddfod would not have happened but for the railway. The Women’s Institute was formed in January 1924. The community hall was opened in 1953.

The Railway

The line laid by the South Wales Railway Company reached Clunderwen in 1852. The station opened on 2nd January 1854, was known as Narberth Road. In 1863 the SWR was taken over by the Great Western Railway.

In 1876 a line was opened from Narberth Road to Rosebush in the Preseli Mountains. This resulted from an agreement between Edward Cropper, who owned slate quarries at Rosebush, and the Great Western Railway, whereby he was to build a railway from Rosebush which would join the main line one mile west of Narberth Road Station. However the line was not financially viable, possibly due to an annual charge of £500 made by the GWR for the use of the station at Clunderwen, and traffic was suspended on 31st October 1882. In 1895 a line from Clunderwen to Letterston was opened by another company which had purchased the Maenclochog Railway and extended the track. The intention of this company, the North Pembrokeshire & Fishguard Railway, was to complete the line to Fishguard. It was in fact the GWR that achieved this by 1899.

Clunderwen had two platforms with goods and cattle facilities both sides of the main line, with a special bay on the up side for the North Pembrokeshire & Fishguard line. At the height of its importance marts were held weekly each side of the railway and cattle feeds were unloaded into the sheds on the station yard. Amongst the goods dispatched by rail were milk – usually to the dairy at Whitland – and rabbits to large towns all over the country.

Rosebush which would join the main line one mile west of Narberth Road Station. However the line was not financially viable, possibly due to an annual charge of £500 made by the GWR for the use of the station at Clunderwen, and traffic was suspended on 31st October 1882. In 1895 a line from Clunderwen to Letterston was opened by another company which had purchased the Maenclochog Railway and extended the track. The intention of this company, the North Pembrokeshire & Fishguard Railway, was to complete the line to Fishguard. It was in fact the GWR that achieved this by 1899.

Clunderwen had two platforms with goods and cattle facilities both sides of the main line, with a special bay on the up side for the North Pembrokeshire & Fishguard line. At the height of its importance marts were held weekly each side of the railway and cattle feeds were unloaded into the sheds on the station yard. Amongst the goods dispatched by rail were milk – usually to the dairy at Whitland – and rabbits to large towns all over the country.

Railway personnel formed an important section of the community. Clunderwen was the engineering headquarters for the area west of Whitland and staff such as plumbers, carpenters and painters had their workshops at the station. The opening of the Clarbeston Road to Fishguard route in 1906 reduced the status of the North Pembrokeshire line, although it continued to be of local importance. The track was taken to France during the 1st World War, but re-laid by 1923. In 1964 Clunderwen station was reduced to a halt and the signal box was removed.

Clynderwen Farmers Co-operative

Established at a meeting held at the Narberth Arms in 1904 its purpose was to buy surplus produce from local farmers, re-selling in areas where the goods were needed. Within a few months they moved to new premises in the centre of Clunderwen and in 1907 these premises were purchased. In 1908 Jones’s Terrace, the garden and the old butter factory were also bought. To show how the business has grown, its turnover in 1905 was £3,522 and by 1979 the turnover was £7,745,855. At one time the co-operative had a creamery in Clunderwen where they made butter and in 1929 they opened an egg factory, buying and selling eggs throughout the country. The creamery probably closed when the Milk Marketing Board was established in 1933. Branches were opened at Clarbeston Road, Narberth, Letterston, Carew and Llanglydwen.

The store at Clunderwen was destroyed by fire in 1922 but reconstruction was rapid and the new building opened on 1st February 1924. In recent years the co-operative has amalgamated with Crymych & District Agricultural Society, Haverfordwest Agricultural Society and Cardiganshire Farmers Co-operative. Today Clynderwen & Cardiganshire Farmers is the largest farmers co-operative in Wales.

Young Farmers Club

Clunderwen Young Farmers Club formed in 1929, was the first club in Wales. Unlike today’s clubs the activities were purely educational, each member paid 3 shillings to join and this money was used to buy calves that members would rear. In 1930 Clunderwen show had a calf class for members to show their stock and this event was the highlight of the year. During the agricultural depression in the 1930′s, the club went into abeyance but was re-started in 1945.

Tabernacle Methodist Church

The chapel was built in 1906-7 and because of the materials used it was known as the ‘Tin Temple’. It was closed in the late 1980’s.

Education

In 1742-3 a circulating school organised by Griffith Jones, vicar of Llanddowror, was held at Eithinduon in Llandissilio. In the late 19th century a reading room was given to the village and here an infants school was held between 1907 and 1950.

James Brothers

Howard and Herbert James are famous for building and flying one of the first aeroplanes in Wales on 25th September 1913, at Bryn Hyfryd Farm near Clunderwen. The plane only reached about 60 feet off the ground and then flipped over. However, they rebuilt it and on 22nd November 1913, they were more successful, but the plane crashed into the hedge on landing. On 20th April 1914, they made their first successful flight over Narberth and Carmarthen, in their Caudron type bi-plane. When they reached Carmarthen they lost their map and had to follow the railway line back to Clunderwen! The brothers planned to establish an aeroplane factory at Narberth, but unfortunately the 1st World War broke out and they never achieved their ambition. Howard and Herbert both moved to Hendon where they instructed pilots in their own plane, later becoming test pilots. After 1918 Howard never flew again but Herbert continued to fly, competing in aerial derbys. In 1921 he broke the world speed record, but the margin was not considered significant enough and his record was not officially recognised.

Country Walks (Map OS Pathfinder 1080)

Starting from the railway station (OS121193) walk north west across open farmland to Blaenwaun and return to the village along a quiet country lane (1 mile), or walk up through the village and turn east towards Clynderwen House returning along quiet country lanes (2.5 miles).

Walkers can also join the Landsker Borderlands Trail by following the quiet lane to Pen Lan Farm near Gelli (OS 091193). This long distance walking route provides links between Clunderwen and neighbouring Llandissilio and Llawhaden.